Keeping the Faith in the U.S. Dollar

The U.S. dollar is not fiat paper currency.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, our paper currency is made up of 75% cotton and 25% linen.

Believe it!

Another fun fact: “In God We Trust” must appear on U.S. currency. As much as I like that, it’s probably less about our faith in our Creator and more about faith in general. Because if we don’t believe in the stated value of our money, then it might as well be fancy toilet paper.

And it’s not just us Americans who need that faith …

The U.S. dollar is far and away the world’s primary reserve currency. And yet, many have trouble believing in it.

A prominent commentator and author — Barry Eichengreen — worries that the U.S. dollar’s reserve currency dominance is in jeopardy.

I don’t.

Mr. Eichengreen is a smart man. He surely knows a great deal more than I do about the International Monetary System. And he has a very logical explanation for why the dollar’s reserve currency status is vulnerable. Namely that U.S. diplomacy is deteriorating.

Much of his argument rests on a statistic that countries with nuclear weapons hold 30% fewer U.S. dollars in reserve, on average, than those with diplomatic ties to the United States’ military might.

But what he points to as evidence of fraying diplomacy is, to me, insignificant at this point.

Concessions to North Korea that leave a void? For China to fill? And, as an eventual result, if Japan and South Korea were to pare back the 80% of their reserves that are U.S. dollars, what then?

As Eichengreen himself writes,

“Central banks still hold U.S. Treasury bonds because the market for them is the single most liquid financial market in the world.”

For that reason alone, China’s currency cannot yet serve in a reserve currency capacity. Not at anywhere near the level the U.S. dollar does. And this doesn’t even address the Impossible Trinity — a sort of Münchhausen trilemma — that China must wrestle with if it truly seeks to unseat the U.S. dollar with its renminbi.

In economic theory, central bankers cannot pursue free capital flow, a fixed exchange rate and sovereign monetary policy at the same time. That’s what makes this trinity an impossible one … at best, they can only achieve 2 of the 3.

This is why Eichengreen is focused on diplomacy.

He feels China’s military can fill gaps more easily than China’s capital markets can.

But, for better or for worse, a breakdown in U.S. military alliances is even less likely to trigger a flight out of U.S. dollar reserves and into Chinese renminbi.

Why?

Because it assumes a breakdown of U.S. military alliances.

Maybe alliances will break down “on paper.” But it’s unlikely that America’s global military influence will break down anytime soon.

America’s power interests do everything in their power to maintain global power because it’s big business.

Roughly 10% of U.S. manufacturing — $2.2 trillion — goes into the production of weapons primarily for the Department of Defense. The $611 billion the U.S. spends is more than the next eight largest military budgets combined. And President Trump is ready to add about 10% more spending to the total next year.

The world may not like an orange quiff. But who doesn’t want the world’s largest military and “most liquid financial market” doing their bidding?

Is this to say any alternate reserve currency scenarios laid out by Mr. Eichengreen, or anyone else for that matter, can never or will never come to pass?

No, not at all.

If, for example, global petroleum trade begins being priced in something besides just U.S. dollars, then it might necessitate a shift in global reserve currency proportions.

But barring a development like that, the reserve currency status quo is considerably more plausible for now.

I see no reason to be concerned about the U.S. dollar’s status. And I’m sticking with the normal market indicators I use to forecast the value of the U.S. dollar and foreign currencies. Those indicators have served, and continue to serve, me well.

If you still fear the imminent demise of the dollar, have a little faith.

Do right,

JR Crooks

P.S. I hope you were able to attend The Edelson Institute’s Supercycle Investing Summit this week. We just completed the third and final session about 90 minutes ago. If you missed this all-important three-part series or you want to review it again, click here for the recordings.

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Comments 13

  1. kdshell1 October 20, 2017

    I don’t know, but I wonder whether using the US’ $611B in military spending is the appropriate measure for comparing other countries, because it assumes the same output per $ for every country. Perhaps a country spending “only” $306B gets the same production output because of lower actual costs.

    Reply

  2. paulandjane2001 October 20, 2017

    Thank you Martin and Sean for letting me watch your presentations. A lot to take in. Very informative and much to
    digest and decide on.

    Best wishes
    Jane Trebess

    Reply

  3. Frederick Smith October 20, 2017

    1-There is no U.S. dollar in circulation, our currency consists entirely of Federal Reserve Notes
    2-A U.S. dollar is aproximatly 1\25th of an ounce of gold, the paper is a note (i.e. legal IOU).
    3-While a U.S. note is backed by a fixed amount of gold, per law, Federal Reserve notes are backed by nothing.

    Reply

  4. Bob H. October 21, 2017

    J.R. where have you been??
    The dollar is toilet paper thanks to president Odumbo’s wasteful over spending of 10 trillion $ in added debt.
    Totally bogus military spending comparison, Chinese work for $2 per hour, US military contractors require $500 per hour. China has 1 billion hard workers and US has 100 million lazy drugged up idiots.
    The Chinese Renminbi?? Have you heard of the Yuan??
    Did you know that 14 countries are already trading petroleum in NON-DOLLARS!!
    China is about to invoke all trade with their country in Yuan backed by Gold.
    Has everyone forgot that China has a communist government that can invoke slavery and executions to their people any time they want, just like North Korea. But U.S. CEOs kiss China’s butt just to satisfy their super greed.
    Like Nancy Pelosi said “The US government should be more like China”.
    Everybody relax, because Trump has a plan to save the dollar. May be invoked in 2018, stay tuned.
    Bob H.

    Reply

    • Thomas October 27, 2017

      Yes, look out for the “Mar-A-Largo” Treaty! The reboot of the Dollar will level the debt problem!

      Reply

  5. michael October 21, 2017

    I’ve read that China’s govt is adding massive amounts of gold to their inventory, with the idea of backing the yuan with gold. That would make China’s currency tremendously popular. And they are working with Russia to settle oil contracts in yuan right now, today. They’re also trying to get the middle east govts to begin trading in yuan.

    It may make you sleep better at night thinking the USD is safe, but I think you’re in store for a rude awakening in the not-too-distant future.

    Reply

  6. Al McNal October 21, 2017

    Why don’t you show the amount of money moving into US markets and the amount moving out of other markets??

    Reply

  7. Al McNal October 21, 2017

    You and everyone else is saying it’s happening but I haven’t seen analysis of the actual amounts being moved.

    Reply

  8. Al McNal October 21, 2017

    JR,

    I analysis is excellent. Thanks for your views on the dollar.

    Please show how money is moving into the US markets and out of other markets, specifically Japan and Europe. It makes sense logically from an American perspective but what makes sense isn’t necessarily true or the magnitude might not be significant. I mean the world has ignored the debt so far and yes at some point it won’t be ignored but how do we know it isn’t ignored now? Certainly their must be data on money movement out of Japan and Europe and into the US.

    Reply

    • Kirtidev Bhatt October 21, 2017

      JR’s comment is worth giving some thought to. However, debt is like a stiff drink. You tend to want more of it as you take more on. However this world does not wait for you to get sufficient balance to pay back the debt.Especially debt that is created by tax cuts that are used to finance industry in the low wage countries.

      Reply

  9. Guest October 21, 2017

    As the ancient thinkers recognized, things that do not exist have absolutely NO power to cause or do ANY thing, and, obviously, can therefore not create or bring themselves into existence. Therefore, if there were EVER a time when absolutely NOTHING existed, then NOTHING could and would possibly exist NOW; and the fact that ANY thing exists now tells us that there was NEVER a time when NO thing existed.

    Thus, despite the wishful thinking and denials of some, there is absolutely NO logical, rational alternative to the existence of an eternally, immutably self-existent first cause. The utter logical impossibility of the converse DEMANDS it, and to deny it is therefore IRRATIONAL!

    Atheism is a system of faith or religion based on a mere unproven, unprovable claim, but also that, because it is ITSELF a system of faith, there is and can be NO freedom FROM religious faith; only freedom OF religious faith; namely, the constitutionally-guaranteed right of each to choose. Thus, sadly, in their futile quest for moral freedom and autonomy, the doctrinaire, but naïve “freedom from religion” folks are on a fool’s errand, jousting at wind-mills and succeeding only in making themselves laughing stock and objects of ridicule; and for them to demand rights endowed by a creator whose very existence they deny is irrational, making that demand absurd and, therefore, legally frivolous.

    Far from being mere superstitious fools who believed in a mythical, non-existent deity, the founders of our republic were wise, highly intelligent, and truly educated (not merely “schooled”) men who recognized and understood that if belief and trust in the self-evident existence of an intelligent, eternally, immutably self-existent first cause, the creator, sustainer and controller of all that is made, the very bed rock of our nation’s founding and constitution, is mere pious, unproven, unprovable nonsense that we inscribe on our coins and dare invoke only in times of danger, disaster or national emergency, then we were NOT endowed by our creator with ANY inalienable rights, let alone the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Reply

  10. Michael November 1, 2017

    We have followed The Edelson Institute for very long time and I find these article utterly impossible to believe, yet understand, as the author seems to lack of knowledge as per the subject. Might I say he suggest he offers a hopeful plea.
    Having said this I wonder how he has come to his many conclusions!

    Currently, we are witnessing the rise of the BRICS, among others and with time the IMF will find it necessary to commit themselves to the full reconition and entry of the Yaun as the new fiat currency. Who owning the Gold? America refuses to open the vaults at Fort Know and the lesser known one, West Point, could that be because they are empty. Why did the USGovernment remove German’s gold from the vault in New York and later offer promissory notes to repay and replace with. What were we suppose to read into that?
    Yes, the Chinese hold a immense amount of debt, but I challenge you to compare that against the full and true debt of the US and our unwillingness to address this disaster just waiting to tear down the very fabric of America.
    Remember, no nation last forever, we are past our point of no return, the next collapse and it is coming very soon it will spell the very doom for this Once Great Republic. Donald Trump will only hasten it’s demise and total failure. Think…his new tax breaks for the middle class and a 10% increase for the military (660 million $$$), utter madness, perhaps that explains Trump himself, “fiddling as Roman burned.” We recently passed the $20 Trillion debt mark, by 2035 it will nearly double and there is no plan in place to pare down this debt, if we to survive our current state of ill affairs.
    America has long been a parasite upon all nations of this world, whether it be measured in our continues wars of aggression, our stealing the natural resources of countless nations, our program known as “the Middle East Partnership Initiative. The latter is best understood as the plan to destabilize and over throw 7 nations in 5 years, job well done…can you say Libya, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, just to name few. This is the work of the Roman Empire and look where it took them. We have military bases in nearly every nation on this planet.
    So…this end I speak of is measured in months, not years nor decades…the collapse is very near. Many nations and investors throughout this world are joining those who already know…that US Treasury Bonds are merely paper, not worth the cotton or linen they are printed on. One day very soon we will have a new source of toilet paper.
    As always everyone is afraid to utter the word Recession, be calm it will not be a Recession, it will be 10 X worse than 1929, 1989 or 2007-2008 and there will be no turning back. Recovery will be measured in decades, not months or years. Say hello to the new Roman, maybe we should all rush out and buy all the tulips we might muster. Wait didn’t they turned out as equally bad, they always do.
    Good night and Good Luck America, it was a good ride, albeit an incredibly expensive one.

    Reply

  11. Mark Power November 9, 2017

    Yikes, this certainly puts things in perspective from a global point of view!! And they are adding MORE to the defence budget!!!?? What on earth are they so afraid of??!!!! Based on GDP numbers (18.9 trillion US GDP), this would be like spending $610 a year on an alarm system with a annual salary of $18,900. I don’t know about you, I think we need to be spending more on making it a place worth defending.

    Reply